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Crime & Courts

Deputy fatally shoots man during undercover sting in Tampa

Tribune Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 08:48 AM
TAMPA -

An undercover drug operation went bad Wednesday night, leaving one man dead and a deputy injured, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

The shooting occurred at around 5:38 p.m. at Cinnamon Cove Apartments at 122nd Avenue and 15th Street North in Tampa.

The sheriff's office said an undercover deputy was buying drugs from a man as part of an investigation when the man tried to rob the deputy of the money he was carrying.

The two began fighting and fell down the outside stairwell, said sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski. The undercover deputy lost his handgun in the struggle, and as the men fought for the handgun, the gun went off several times, she said.

Two backup sheriff's deputies were nearby. They saw the struggle and told the man to drop the gun. When the man didn't comply, they fatally shot him, the sheriff's office said.

"They saw the deputy in a fight for his life and they shot the suspect," Lusczynski said.

The undercover deputy was injured but wasn't shot, Lusczynski said. He was evaluated and released from Tampa General Hospital late Wednesday night, and is recovering at home.

The sheriff's office didn't release the identity of the dead man, saying his family had not been notified.

However, family and friends identified the victim as Robert Earl Gary Jr., who turned 31 on Tuesday.

Gary's stepfather, Dallas Gillyard, said Gary was nonviolent and didn't carry a weapon. He accused the sheriff's office of targeting his stepson.

"There was no reason to shoot him down," Gillyard said outside a home at the corner of 15th Street and 122{+n}{+d} Avenue where a crowd of people had gathered. "Was it because of his previous record or the color of his skin?" Gillyard asked.

Gillyard said he doesn't believe Gary tried to rob an undercover officer.

"He wasn't going to rob anybody," Gillyard said. "If he would do anything, he would give you something."

"If you're going to tell a lie, tell me elephants fly, too," Gillyard said. "Every time (police) kill somebody, it's justified."

Lusczynski said undercover deputies were working in the area because of a complaint the sheriff's office had received about crack cocaine sales at the intersection of 15th Street and 122nd Avenue. She said undercover deputies have purchased drugs in the past from the man killed Wednesday.

This wasn't racial profiling, she said.

"Someone called this complaint into us," Lusczynski said. "We were responding to the citizen's complaint."

The three deputies involved have been placed on administrative leave while the incident is investigated, which is standard practice when a deputy discharges a weapon.


jpatino@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7659 Twitter: @jpatinoTBO

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